Right time to start ‘new council’ conversation
Posted: Fri, 29 Jun 2018 15:00
"The time has come to explore having a new council for Leicestershire," County Council Leader Nick Rushton has announced.
The news follows discussions with the council leaders in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire about how they could join up as part of a strategic alliance, to counterbalance the growing power and influence of the West Midlands Combined Authority.
"It's important that the East Midlands is not overshadowed by the West Midlands. We are simply losing out.
I've been talking to other councils about how we make full use of powers over planning, transport and investment to maximise our collective clout. This is vital for Leicestershire's economy – building the right skills, creating quality jobs and housing.
As leaders, we need to get our act together and these discussions have sharpened the focus on local government structures and how complex they currently are.
We've written to the new Secretary of State asking to meet and talk to him about our East Midlands plans."
A unitary structure would reduce costs and improve services, and proposals should be developed says the council leader.
"I believe the time has come to consider having a modern, progressive council for Leicestershire, to replace the county council and the seven district councils.
Whilst I have my own preference of a single council with direct links to local communities through towns and parishes, there may be other options to consider.
For now, we must accept that the two-tier local government system which remains in parts of England is broken, bureaucratic, old fashioned, confusing, inefficient and takes money away from front-line services. A unitary council would save money, as well as simplify and improve services."
It's estimated running one council would save £30m a year ongoing by having fewer chief officers, senior staff, councillors and offices. The money would be reinvested in services.
"Our fair funding campaign is bearing fruit but the Government's plan to invest £20bn in the NHS is a game changer. There simply isn't enough money to go round the public sector, meaning we're unlikely to gain. The financial outlook for local government in Leicestershire is bleak so it's important we consider sensible options to get a better deal for our tax payers and those who rely in public services. The county council has saved £178m since 2010 and we can't go on just cutting further.
But it's not just about saving money – it's about making a real difference to people's lives and building stronger links with communities. A new, single council would improve accountability and give Leicestershire a stronger voice but it also opens up opportunities to have town councils in places like Loughborough and Coalville."
Options will now be drawn up – including proposals for a consultation with residents, businesses and other partners for discussion by the council's Scrutiny Commission, Cabinet and full County Council later this year.
There are currently eight councils providing council services across Leicestershire: Blaby District Council, Charnwood Borough Council, Harborough District Council, Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council, Melton Borough Council, North West Leicestershire District Council, Oadby and Wigston Borough Council and Leicestershire County Council – Leicester City Council covers a different area and wouldn't be part of any proposals.
The county council has saved £178m since 2010 and needs to reduce costs by another £50m over the next four years.
The county council has a revenue budget of £350m per year – the district councils have a collective revenue budget of £75m per year.